London Book Shop Crawl 3: Part 3 – Soho and London Pride!

Part three: in which we take part in London Pride, realise the time, buy too many comic books.

The bus we hopped on from Sloane Square terminated at Green Park, meaning we had a long, slow walk through the wealthy areas of Savile Row, past shops with their own security guard. I feel very small-town when I see those.

As we neared Soho, we heard the wonderful sounds of celebration. We stood by and enjoyed the Pride parade – my first in fact. My queerness is something I’ve come to understand over the last few years, so I’ve never really taken part in a Pride, so it was nice to witness it and feel like I’d been part of something wonderful. We wandered through Soho, smiling at the rainbow covered tottering tipsy attendees, as we made our way to one of my favourite book shops in London.

However, this also seemed to be the point that we got distracted about taking photos and so there are NO MORE PHOTOS from this point, gaahh.

Book Shop 5: Gosh! Comics

Gosh! Comics is an absolutely lovely shop situated just off Wardour Street, amidst Soho, and minutes walking distance from China Town, Oxford Street, Carnaby Street and Shaftesbury Avenue. Basically, so conveniently situated that you have no excuse to not go.

They have a great selection of graphic novels, both independent and more mainstream. Downstairs the basement is filled with the latest single issues, Marvel graphic novels (i.e. collections of single issues into handy books for those who don’t know) and lots of manga – Tim found a bunch of Blade the Immortal for £5, a series that lines a whole shelf in our house. I have promised to go back and buy the rest of them later this week for him.

Upstairs is dominated by a central table, with a number of novels and comics on display. I have, a number of times, picked rather randomly from this selection and it has never done me wrong. I selected Skim by Jillian Tamaki & Mariko Kamaki as the book I was going get, having absolutely loved their touching collaboration novel about teenagers on holiday, This One Summer and Jillian Tamaki’s absolutely hilarious webcomic (which I recommend you buy) Super Mutant Magic Academy.

But then we got a little carried away when we were looking on the shelves and ended up also buying the latest volume of Alex and Ada (a great comic about owned androids and what it means for them to be conscious), plus two volumes of Hawkeye and another comic that Tim chose that I must admit I have forgotten. It was naughty! But in our defence, while there, we did realise that it was 4.30pm and that we hadn’t had lunch, so CLEARLY we were delirious with hunger.

IMG_20150628_175942We were also gifted a copy of the Pride Zine that had been put together by Gosh! featuring awesome comics, including one by my friend Akbar Ali on cool queer people he knows. You should go listen to ALL the bands he name-checks as they are all awesome – they are Colour Me Wednesday, Ay! Carmela, Daniel Versus the World and Blockfort. Not just only about books over here.

Steven the sales assistant is always very helpful, and Gosh runs a number of workshops and book clubs to take part in. While I’ve never made it to the book club as yet, I’ve found the comics they choose tend to be really interesting so I recommend if you go in there, ask what they’ve been reading recently for that.

I am liable to witter on about comics, so I’ll save up the rest for another “what I’ve been reading” but you can catch up on my last note about girls in comic books here. 

Book Shop 6: London Review Bookshop

After spending too much in Gosh! we headed over to the British Museum area, where London Review Bookshop is, and hurriedly stuffed ourselves with pizza (gluten free for me, hurrah!) before heading over there. LRB is another of my faves in London though I had only been once before, and Tim never. They have a great selection of nature writing downstairs where I tend to stand, Tim found another architecture section, though after Gosh! decided to save his pennies.

LRB hosts a lot of events, including shopping evenings where you can pop in after work and a 10% discount applies on all their books. The upstairs is brightly lit and shelves to the ceiling display fiction all around the back of the shop. I have been reliably informed that the cakes they sell are delicious, especially the date cake according to Ella of Eating With My Fingers, who I trust completely on food choices, as I’ve told you before.

I felt that ending on something naturey would be the right way to end the crawl (having finally accepted that by 6pm I wasn’t going to finish the job), so I settled on Fox by Martin Wallen, part of the Reaktion series. The week before I’d been curled up on my friend Nell’s bed staving off a seizure, so she lay down next to me and grabbed her copies of Snail and Fox from the Reaktion series and read me a timeline of the snail. I instantly felt calmer and it helped me stay in the moment enough to get a cab home and not seizure (huzzah!). Foxes have long been my favourite animal and I get an absolute thrill when I see one, which we did as I came out of the anxious wobbly fog, peeping its head down from under a tree that covered a roof.

Not only that, but earlier that week I attended a talk by the lovely Helen MacDonald, author of H is for Hawk, at Foyles (therefore technically Book Shop -1?) who authored Falcon from the Reaktion series, which I picked up after the talk (if you haven’t read H is for Hawk you must, must, must. It really is as good as they say). It felt right to end on yet another nature book, so I sleepily looked up at Tim and asked him to go downstairs to get the plastic sealed copy for me.

Honourable Mentions

Book Shop 7 would have been the lovely Persephone Books, had it not shut before we even reached anywhere near Holborn. Persephone specialise in out-of-press books written by or about women, and all of them come in beautiful grey covers with brightly coloured insides and a bookmark to match. I have several books from their series, but I would have bought A Writer’s Diary by Virginia Woolf if we had made it there. Their books also make lovely gifts.

Book Shop 8 would have been Gay’s the Word, which I’m super frustrated about missing out on, on PRIDE of all days. But I plan to go back in the near future, to find something new and exciting. Or at least Oranges are not the Only Fruit in this cover which I cannot find anywhere. I would have also tried to fit in a trip to Skoob, which I’ve heard good things about.

Book Shop 9 would have been Word on the Water, and while we still had time to get to the FLOATING BOOKSHOP I think we’d completely ran out of energy to get there. I had no plan of what to get there except a sense of sheer happiness at being on a boat that is also a bookshop. I recommend following them on Twitter to double check where they are moored and what their opening times are.

Book Shop 10 which I would have visited definitely the day after was Church Street Books in Stoke Newington which always has at least four things in it I want to buy at all times.

I curated a map filled with the bookshops I intended to visit, split into whether they sell new or used books (some both, I later discovered) and labelled red if I’d not been to them before. You can see it below – I will add to it over time, and may make it extend beyond London, so perhaps book mark it if that’s your thing.

The bookshop crawl was really a great way to value the differences in shops around us. Homogeny of the high street is a dreaded curse, and while I love the assurance of Waterstones’ stock, I love the excitement of the unknown in independent stores more. I got excellent service in all those I visited from staff who were genuinely eager to assist. I will definitely be re-visiting all of them in future, and may do a follow up mini crawl or series of blog posts where I try and make it to the other shops on my list. A good bookshop is never not worth exploring.

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